It isn’t likely you will hear Bill Day talk about his MA in Adult Education, his years as President of Douglas College, the Order of Canada Award he received, or his service as a Citizenship Judge. After visiting with him and his partner Lynn Wells for an hour, I came away with the distinct impression that at age 80, he’s just too busy and goal oriented to focus on past accomplishments.
From the beginning, he received very little without effort on his part. “We were depression babies,” he says. “Things were ok until my alcoholic father was fired from his position as a prof at UBC. The next 5 years were terrible. We were hungry a lot. I remember card boarding my shoes. Work was scarce in those days so we considered it a stroke of good fortunate when my mother was hired by Finning Tractor. Her pay wasn’t great but at least the family had a steady income and stability.”
Necessity made it essential for him to be proactive and creative. “To pay my camp fees at YMCA’s Camp Elphinstone,” he remembers, “I cleaned out-houses. It was something no one else wanted to do. I was my own boss. I liked it. I learned that if you do work others don’t want to do, you get respect.”
He developed the habit of doing whatever it takes. To pay for his UBC tuition, he worked at the paper mill at Ocean Falls. “I learned on the job and became a millwright,” he says. “I loved the work and I loved Ocean Falls. It was there that I started teaching English to immigrant men in the evening in the bunkhouse.” Helping those men put him onto a path he was to walk on the rest of his working life.
One day his foreman came to him and said “Bill, I’ve been authorized to offer you a job in administration. However, I don’t think you should accept it. In a few years you would be bored. My advice is go back to school and train for a career in teaching. You have a gift for it.”
Bill had the good sense to accept the advice of his mill foreman and returned to university. After completing his training, he began his teaching career in Quesnel. Here he taught during the day and tutored Italian railroad workers in English four evenings a week. Subsequently he taught in Maple Ridge, continuing to teach English at night, and then accepted a role in Surrey as one of the first full-time Adult Education administrators in B.C.
His growing experience and expertise in Adult Education brought an invitation to go to India for a year, to advise the Rajasthan State government in this field. “They didn’t really need me,” he says, “I learned from them and it was a wonderful experience. I loved India.”
Upon returning to Canada, he was asked to plan the development of Douglas College. He subsequently became Dean of Continuing Education and then served as President for 15 years. He also wrote feasibility studies for two other Community Colleges.
Bill considers himself very fortunate. “Until I retired,” he says, “I was always in the right place at the right time. I served under people for whom I had great admiration.”
Observing him participate in the community organizations of Hedley, it quickly becomes evident that Bill’s good fortune had less to do with luck than with preparation and the willingness to do what is needed. Undoubtedly, a positive outlook and a touch of charm helped too. His partner Lynn Wells describes him as “a hard worker, very bright, personable and proactive.”
Understanding that everyone appreciates recognition, he gives it quickly and enthusiastically. He is convinced that by working collaboratively, a community can accomplish what seems impossible. This positive, proactive thinking has many times attracted the attention of people in authority and power. For his work in Adult and International Education, Bill was awarded the Order of Canada. Then, after official retirement, to his great amazement, he received a call from Ottawa offering him a position as Citizenship Judge.
“I was certain at first they had the wrong Bill Day,” he recalls. “When they assured me they didn’t, I was thunderstruck.” Pausing as though reliving that moment he says, “it was very affirming. It told me I had actually done a good job.” “I loved the work and carried on for ten more years until I reached mandatory retirement at 76.”
Bill is still doing a good job, even if he doesn’t get paid for it now. At the Hedley Museum he said to the Directors, “tell me what you need done and I’ll do it.” Last year he spoke at Hedley’s Canada Day celebration and also at the Remembrance Day ceremony. He is currently spearheading the development of Unity Park in Hedley. He and Lynn are “devoted” volunteers at the Princeton Traditional Music Festival. This morning, before our visit, he painted woodwork and washed windows at the Seniors’ Centre.
After sitting across the table with Bill and Lynn for over an hour, I realized that his mind hadn’t lost its focus even for a moment. He is optimistic, bright, high octane, apparently healthy, and community minded. I wasn’t surprised when he said at the end of our time together, “it’s being a great life.”
Although as a child Carrie Allison completed only the fourth grade, I came away from a two hour visit with her feeling I’d been educated in history and wisdom. She was sent from her home in the Merritt area where she was born, to a residential school in Kamloops at age 8 and was educated there until age 12.
Carrie is now 83 and even though her experience in the residential school wasn’t as horrific as what we often hear about in the media, the memories still haunt her. A note of sadness creeps into her voice when she says, “my dreams about it are always bad. In one dream I hearing a baby crying at night, but it is dark and I can’t find it.”
She pauses a moment to reflect, then continues. “I was away from home 10 months at a time. There wasn’t enough to eat and I was always hungry. We ate in the same room as the staff, and we could see they had meat on their plates. We were given only vegetable soup and one slice of bread. At Easter they gave us one egg with our meal. I knew mostly the language of my people, but I was punished if I spoke it. In winter they made us walk to town. My hands and feet got really cold. We weren’t allowed to talk to the boys or even look at them. We were in the classroom half a day, the rest of the day we had to work. The girls cleaned up the dormitories, the priest’s room, the hallways, play room and dining hall.”
Knowing she looks after the diminutive white chapel situated on a bluff overlooking the Similkameen Valley, not far from Hedley going toward Keremeos, I ask why she is still involved with the Catholic faith. Many would have turned their backs on the faith because of the pain caused by the school experiences.
“People sometimes ask me that,” she answers. “I tell them God didn’t do that to me. It was people. I never look back. I tell the kids to always look ahead and try to make something of themselves.”
Carrie never knew her father. Fortunately her mother was deeply committed to her family and Carrie speaks of her as a wonderful role model. “She was very small,” she says. “She tanned hides and traded them in town. She also made gloves and moccasins.”
Carrie recalls clearly the injunction of her mother to “take care of yourself. No drinking. Before you go away, do the dishes and clean the house.”
Now a mother and grandmother herself, she does all she can to pass on the values of the older generation. “Young kids don’t know what we went through,” she says with a perceptible hint of disappointment. “Sometimes I think we should take them back to our time. No electricity, no indoor bathroom. We had to pack water from the river. Mom didn’t have a washing machine so she carried her laundry to the river. She heated water in a tub there and after she washed the clothes, she hung them on branches.”
I sense now that in her mind she is reliving those times. “Sometimes we bathed in the river. In winter we heated water in the tub and bathed there. Those were happy days. I was with my family.”
In 1942 Carrie’s mother married a member of the Upper Similkameen Band and they moved to Hedley. “The town looked new to me then,” she says. “People dressed up.
I saw ladies wearing hats and white gloves.” She recalls they could flag down the Great Northern train and catch a ride to Oroville.
When she was 12, her stepfather took her to the home of Charlie Allison, at that time band chief. Here she met Edward (Slim) Allison, her future husband. Slim was told by the Indian Agent, “you should be on the band council. You can read and write.” In time, Slim became band chief. When he was in this role, she worried about him. “You can’t please everybody,” she says, again experiencing the concern she had for her husband at that time.
“Slim always gave me the pay from his work at the sawmill in Princeton.” I sense her pride as she remembers how responsible he was about finances. “He told me to pay the bills and if there was anything left, I could give him some.”
At age 40, Carrie attended 3 semesters of academic upgrading. Someone at the school suggested she enter a hair styling course. She accepted this advice and registered for a course in Vernon. For the last two weeks of the course she made the long trip from Hedley to Vernon every day. Having had my hair cut by her many years ago, I still recall her cheery attitude and words as she clipped.
Now at an age when no one would be critical if she retired to a rocking chair, Carrie gives little indication she is ready to slow her pace. In addition to cleaning the little chapel, once a year she hires boys to harvest the weeds from the adjacent cemetery. Records indicate the chapel was likely built in 1901 and she feels a responsibility to those who made it a reality at a time when remoteness of the area made this difficult. “I think of the old people who worked so hard to bring the lumber and windows and other supplies here to build it,” she says. “We should keep it up in their honour.” When there are 5 Sundays in a month, the priest comes and she attends the service. In winter she often invites the people to meet in her home, due to lack of adequate heat in the chapel.
“It is important to preserve the Indian culture and ways,” Carrie says. “I’m learning a prayer in the band language. I don’t want the language to be lost. Not many can speak it anymore.”
On the first Wednesday of each month she attends an elders lunch in Keremeos. She still sews quilts. “I tried making moccasins, but I’m not good at it.”
Carrie is a committed fan of early Country and Western music. “When I was in Nashville,” she tells me, “I saw Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Earnest Tubb and Kitty Wells.” When I ask if she likes Jerry Lee Lewis, famous for his Great Balls of Fire hit, her response is enthusiastic. “Oh yes. I like him.”
Carrie has experience, wisdom and an enthusiasm for life that many with a Masters Degree would envy.
In 1973 Len and Jean Roberts, founders of the One Way Adventure
Foundation, began with a simple booth at the Cloverdale Rodeo. They offered camping, cycling and canoeing expeditions. A probation officer liked their vision and on behalf of her Surrey office, negotiated a contract with them to operate an extended program for youths on probation.
Soon probation officers were dropping their most recalcitrant adolescent clients off at the Roberts home. Sometimes it was with the explanation they would be camping, canoeing, or joining a football team. Len had to inform them their PO had actually placed them in a longterm program of rehabilitation. With these often rowdy youths assembling in the Roberts back yard each morning, anxious neighbours spent a lot of time peeking through slits in closed curtains. They were understandably concerned about their personal and property safety.
Desperately needing a larger, more appropriate place as a base, the Roberts purchased 3 acres with a home and small barn in Surrey. As their reputation for effectiveness increased, probation officers and social workers clamored for more spaces to send youths out of control in their home, school and community.
Len quickly realized they would have to get some of these hard to manage youths into a more tranquil and secure setting. The Gold House and Colonial Inn properties on the outskirts of Hedley were derelict and available and he was able to acquire them .
Just prior to the purchase, the inn was seriously vandalized. At about this time, one of the young vandals was placed in the Foundation’s Surrey program for other unlawful activities. Not realizing the Foundation had just purchased the property, and wanting to establish a tough guy image, he foolishly boasted to Len about his part in the vandalism. Len immediately sent him to Hedley to help staff with the clean up and repairs. The building was named the Camp Colonial Lodge
Eventually 4 programs operated out of the Hedley setting. The youths were assigned to work projects such as fence mending, building trails, cutting grass etc. In time there were food prep, mechanics, retail and riding courses. Rigorous back packing and canoeing expeditions, skiing, rock climbing and rappelling were also part of the mix. Most students attended the Foundation school. Extremely difficult cases were sometimes sent to Upper Camp, part way up the Tram Line.
While Jean ran the office, Len built the organization. Needing space for programs and storage, he managed over time to buy several buildings, which were for the most part derelict and empty. Although not charismatic in the usual sense, he was able to explain his vision, purpose and methods in a manner that appealed to individuals eager to devote their lives to a significant purpose. The work was often arduous and the pay wasn’t great, but workers continued to come and stay. Several youths, after completing their program, were accepted into a one year training course for young workers starting with the organization. Upon completion the Foundation brought them on as staff.
The Hedley operation became both the wilderness and administrative centre of the One Way Adventure Foundation. Liking its highly effective approach combining work skills development, academics and wilderness expeditions, the government contracted for day programs in Penticton, Kelowna and Vernon.
Possibly it was the organization’s success that aroused the ire of a small cadre of elderly men in Hedley. For several years they plotted against the organization, hoping in some way to discredit it. In 1986 they complained to the two major Vancouver dailies that the OWAF was a cult. Always searching for the dramatic, one reporter managed to make the allegation a front page story, based entirely on unproven speculation.
A government inspection team, consisting of men in dark suits, quickly descended on Hedley. They spent a week meticulously scrutinizing financial records and interviewing youths, staff and residents. In the end they determined there was no reason for concern and completely exonerated the Foundation.
In the early 1990’s, a new government switched its youth programs from a regional to a community model. Len chose not to go in this direction and reluctantly folded the organization.
Now, some 20 years later, newcomers to Hedley might be inclined to ask if the Foundation made any lasting contribution to the community. In response to this question, a member of the Hedley Museum Society said, “if it wasn’t for the Foundation, some of our larger structures would not have survived. They did major upgrades on several empty, neglected buildings.”
The presence of young staff, usually carrying 2-way radios, helped seniors feel more secure. Also, at that time there was no garbage collection and one program provided this service for staff, seniors and the disabled. Finding someone to replace a door or toilet, or fix a leaky tap was often difficult.. The OWAF developed a service to fill this need. Using government grants, they were able to provide training and employment for 10-12 local residents.
Certainly, the most important contribution lies in helping hundreds of young offenders acquire useful skills and develop a more positive self-concept. They returned to their community much more aware and confident of their potential.
Although the Foundation is gone, it still lives on in the memories of people who were here at that time.
Sitting at a large wooden table in the log home of Eric and Lorraine Lance, I felt I had stepped back into an earlier time and a simpler way of life. Built by Eric, the home overlooks the Similkameen River just west of Hedley and allows an extensive view of the valley. It seems an appropriate home and setting for a deeply committed woman who has devoted years and much energy to preserving the area’s history.
As a young woman, Lorraine studied broadcast communications at BCIT. “My goal was to work in news reporting,” she said. When she and Eric moved to Princeton, he worked at the mine and she was employed by the Similkameen Spotlight. She wrote a column on pioneers and recalls interviewing the Rabbitts, a well known pioneer family in the area. She also served as assistant editor for a time.
For her it was “an extraordinarily interesting era.” The mine and mill were both expanding, Princeton was booming and housing was scarce. She remembers vividly living in a 40 foot trailer.
When they acquired the three acres on which they now live, they moved into a small rustic dwelling on the property. Eric began building the log house, at times with her assistance.
Lorraine says it was Ruth Dunham, a longtime Hedley area resident, who encouraged her to get involved with the group that wanted to start a museum. Ruth told her, “everyone can make a difference in the community. It’s your choice.”
Lorraine quickly caught the early vision. When she speaks now of the group’s efforts, it is with a rare passion known only to the totally committed. She explains that the group’s purpose was to preserve the unique heritage of the Hedley area by encouraging and participating in historic building restoration and site conservation. The 1983 Constitution expressed the founders desire to also foster the development of arts and crafts in the community. Initially they named the organization The Hedley Heritage, Arts and Crafts Society. In 1998 the name was changed to The Hedley Heritage Museum Society.
“I wanted to do the museum work,” Lorraine says with just a hint of regret, “but I was always slotted into fund raising.” Although this wasn’t her wish, she believed fervently in the society’s goals and pursued government grant opportunities with a relentless tenacity. She particularly recalls a $20,000 grant, which was used to buy the museum property. Also a Cultural Initiatives grant of $25,000, devoted to constructing the building.
It is evident that Lorraine feels immense respect for the founding group. “It was Helen Moore who gave us the idea,” she says. “She had common sense for what to do. She was the only one who had lived here during the mining days. She knew the history. If anyone can be called the saint of the museum, it is Helen.”
Bernice Hodges, an early proponent, now deceased, was a potter and artist. Vince and Audrey Flynn gave many hours to tracking down photos and obtaining permission to use them. Mike Sanford, a mining engineer, served as society president a number of years. His wife Debra was treasurer during that time. “It was a real team effort,” Lorraine remembers.
Presently Lorraine is dealing with a significant health challenge that prevents her from being active in museum work. Her passion is still evident, however. “The training of volunteers is important,” she says. “They need to understand museums don’t need a lot of heat. Lighting is critical. Pictures can be damaged by light. Only duplicates of pictures should be on walls. Also, water and museums don’t go together well.”
She believes a museum is important because it helps a community retain its sense of history. “It provides us with a better understanding of our rich and vibrant past,” she says.
Building a Healthier Community was the subject of a March 4 workshop facilitated by Betty Brown of Interior Health Authority. Second of a year long series sponsored by Angelique Wood, RDOS Area G representative, the session dealt with Five Pillars: physical activity, healthy eating, tobacco reduction, healthy built environment and priority populations. Wood said “the purpose is to examine ways for us to live healthier, more fulfilling lives in our community.”
Brown, an experienced discussion leader with an effervescent personality, skilfully guided the group of about two dozen in an animated exchange of suggestions, ideas and questions.
It was suggested at the outset there is a need for a better understanding of the make up of the Hedley population. Some of the people, it was observed, may come to the community because they want to be left alone. Others may not know how to participate in community life. To engage people effectively, it would be beneficial to have a greater awareness of the demographic breakdown.
Several individuals expressed a desire for more interaction with the Upper Similkameen Indian Band. Discussion revealed considerable consensus on this and it was suggested community leaders initiate discussions with band leaders to foster cooperation on issues of common concern and interest.
Another item that generated a good deal of discussion was the need for a community newsletter. Interest was strong and there is certain to be further consideration of this idea.
There was also general agreement that community organizations such as Hedley Historical Museum, Seniors Centre, the Community Club, Hedley Grace Church and Fire Department could work together to achieve common objectives such as generating income and attracting members.
In the committee discussions, two groups argued for a paid or volunteer coordinator to assist the community to achieve important objectives. It was agreed that community organizations would be asked to send a representative to the next meeting. One subject to be discussed is the former ball park, now Unity Park. Work is needed to develop it into a community park with a walking trail and green space.
A pleasant surprise for participants was the presence of Sergeant Barry Kennedy of the Princeton RCMP Detachment. He answered a number of questions, including what the force will do when small medical grow ops become illegal at the end of this month. He replied that direction on this will have to come from Health Canada.
Angelique Wood commented after the workshop, “it is important that we come together as a group and share our resources, ideas and brilliance to create a new future for the health of our children and planet. Although we didn’t agree on everything today, we listened to each other and as a group, we took some substantive steps in a positive direction.”
When my wife and I moved from Abbotsford to Hedley a year ago, our friends couldn’t comprehend our reasons for turning our backs on the amenities and glitter of city life. Living in a small community with no McDonalds, Starbucks and numberless quality restaurants, plus no Canuck games, nearby movie theatres or opera, was to them like departing from the known world. They could not fathom an existence in a community with no doctors, banks, supermarkets, malls or automobile dealerships.
Moving to Hedley has made us aware of another way of living. Instead of depending only on government agencies to look after them, people help each other. If an elderly person needs a ride to see a doctor, almost invariably, someone offers to take them. When a cancer patient needed financial assistance to travel to a specialist in Vancouver, there was a contribution box in the Country Market. There seems to be an understanding that to survive as individuals and as a community, we need to be willing when help is needed.
We have seen that there is a core group that strives to make Hedley an interesting, vibrant community. One example of this is the pancake breakfast hosted by the members of the Hedley Seniors Center. On the second Sunday of each month they invite the community to a breakfast of pancakes, eggs and sausages or bacon. At $5 a plate it’s a delicious bargain.
This summer the Community Club again sponsored a barbeque and street dance. Great food and wonderful music. The band’s rendition of Johnny B. Goode wowed the crowd. At only $10, it was another bargain we never encountered in the city.
In October the Hedley Museum Society sponsored a lavish Thanksgiving dinner. They spoiled us with turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, yams, pie, and more.
For some years the Hedley Grace Church has organized a bottle drive to send children to camp. Throughout the year, people contribute bottles and cans, and sometimes money. Twice a year the contributions are sorted and bagged at the fire hall. This is done by church people, children who attend the camp, and others who consider it a good cause.
The Fire Department, like all the groups, is manned by hard working committed volunteers. They practise every Tuesday evening to ensure the best possible skill and fitness level.
We love the abundant sunshine, enjoy the people and appreciate the clean air. The amenities of the city we came from really cannot compare. These are just a few benefits of small town living.
On February 10, Hedley’s Senior Centre was crowded with community leaders and advocates from Princeton to Penticton, Osoyoos and Kamloops. They had come to hear Julie Fowler, executive director of the highly successful ArtsWells Festival.
It was the first in a series of “Community Conversations” organized by Angelique Wood, RDOS Director of Area G, and Kim English, a director of the Hedley Heritage Museum Association and Assistant Manager of the Grist Mill.
Purpose of the workshop, according to Wood was to “improve existing festivals and also to encourage networking among participants ” She said “this type of meeting will enable us to form lasting bonds and grow our communities.” English said she hoped people would hear something of value they could take back to their own community and apply there.
Fowler, who has been in Wells 10 years, told the group her passion is to support artists of all kinds. “I want to bring them together,” she said, “and I want to bring their art to the world.”
The Wells festival began small. “In the beginning we gave away a lot of tickets so people would come. And if an artist showed an interest we begged them to come. There was little money to pay them, but we did feed them.”
She advised her audience to use existing facilities and look for funding through corporate sponsorships and government grant programs, in addition to selling tickets. “Publicity is important,” asserted Fowler. ArtsWells has found the CBC to be helpful.
Fowler said last year the festival sold out and had about 2000 guests. They require approximately 220 volunteers, most of whom come from outside Wells. Many of the artists and guests stay in tents during the 4 day festival. It is still “quite grass roots.”
Currently the Wells festival features over 100 musical performances on 12 stages. It offers more than 20 different workshops teaching everything from Ukrainian dance to lyric writing, clowning and more. Activities for children include a crafting station, a children’s stage and workshops geared towards children.
There are also screenings of independent films and local theatre productions. A one minute play festival is always popular. Added to this is a host of inter-genre literary performances and workshops, including story telling/writing, poetry and the unexpected.
Following Julie Fowler’s presentation, Bob Nicholson of the Okanagan-Similkameen Conservation Alliance participated in a panel discussion. He spoke about the Meadowlark Nature Festival which takes place in Penticton. It features hikes, history, wild life and much more. Each year they have an artist paint a picture, usually of a Meadow Lark, and put it on t-shirts which are sold to raise funds. “We could use more help,” he said, “including a few additional people on our board, and we need money.” He expressed a desire to work with other groups. “A lot of the power is already in this room,” he suggested. “Often we don’t know who has the experience, knowledge and skills.”
At the end of the workshop there was palpable excitement and enthusiasm as attendees exchanged ideas and contact information. Angelique Wood described the presentations as “inspiring”. Another Community Conversation will take place in April at a date to be announced.
A small town perspective on people, community, politics and environment.